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Egypt threatens crackdown but protesters stay put

BREAKING NEWS CAIRO: Egypt’s government warned of a military crackdown as massive rallies against President Hosni Mubarak spread and reports surfaced that the army had detained and tortured pro-democracy activists.

Hundreds of demonstrators marched on parliament from the epicentre of the uprising in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Wednesday, a day after the largest protests since the revolt began, as unrest spread across the nation.

Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit warned the army, until now a mostly neutral force, would intervene if the protests against Mubarak’s 30-year-old US-backed rule escalated.

“If chaos occurs, the armed forces will intervene to control the country, a step which would lead to a very dangerous situation,” the official MENA news agency said, paraphrasing Abul Gheit’s interview with Arabic-language satellite television channel Al-Arabiya.

His remarks came after newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman warned of a possible “coup” in the absence of a peaceful transfer of power.

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